Civil Strife Dispatch: Oaxaca, Mexico

I got an e-mail from a reporter colleague in Oaxaca, Mexico last night. She says that things appear to be about ready to hit the fan down there. Teachers and other locals have taken control and barricaded the government buildings there since going on strike earlier this summer.

Here’s the word from Shannon Young on the ground there:

There have been rumors swirling for the past few days about a coming police crackdown on the popular uprising in Oaxaca City.

Last night, I caught wind of a federal police operation for this weekend from 2 separate sources. Mexico’s El Universal newspaper has reported that an operation dubbed Ciclon 5 (involving some 3,000 militarized federal police) has been prepared – something the Fox administration denies.

Ok, so WHY am I writing now?

Out of the blue, two very large, grey helicopters began circling low over the city center just before 5pm CT today. Helicopters are something you NEVER see here. They were definitely NOT civilian helicopters. They circled the area where all the major barricades for about 30 mins than left.

At around 6:30pm CT, an airplane with what appeared to be a camera attached to the nose cone began to circle over the central area of Oaxaca City. I counted 4 overhead passes and did not see it headed in the direction of the airport.

My guess is that it was assessing the barricades because it seemed to circle from the area of the barricade guarding the antenna of the APPO-occupied 710AM to beyond the opposite side of downtown.

Many of the downtown barricades have been reinforced with sandbags since Thursday evening, when the crackdown rumors really got to swirling. So, many of the barricades actually look more like trenches, with chest-high sandbags and barbed wire, etc.

BACKGROUND: The central square, the “zocalo” has been occupied by a protest encampment since public school teachers went on strike on May 22nd. The crackdown and attempted removal of the striking teachers on June 14th is what sparked the rebellion that has since led to the blockading of every major government building in Oaxaca City and the takeover of more of the municipal halls of at least 20 cities and towns statewide.

The movement calling for the removal of the governor has been pretty much ignored by the Senate, which is the body Constitutionally charged with handling matters of impeachment of governors. Did I mention the governor of Oaxaca used to be a Senator?